Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The Tone Rangers: Redux
You’ve likely seen this clip from The Break-Up, in which Vince Vaughn gets his ass kicked by the Tone Rangers. Funny stuff. Guess what: There’s more of it. But not in the film.
You see that guy in the yellow shirt? With the day-old scruff? That’s Eric Bradley. I called him for details.
First, the clip:
A brief bio: As an undergrad at the University of Miami, Eric Bradley joined the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha. And then he started an a cappella group, Phive Men A Cappella. Get it? Phi Mu Alpha. And there were five of them!
After a stint in Chicago singing bass with Blind Man’s Bluff (a pro a cappella group), Eric Bradley moved to Los Angeles and quickly found work as a studio singer and a voiceover artist. (He can be heard on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer videogame.) He also sang in a West Coast group called Sixth Wave.
Meanwhile, The Break-Up was shooting in Chicago. The movie had a decent budget and the producers recruited a handful of local singers to pose as the Tone Rangers, led by Jennifer Aniston’s on-screen brother, John Michael Higgins. But if there was a decent bass in the Windy City, the producers couldn’t find one.
Higgins (who sang in a collegiate cappella group at Amherst called the Zumbyes) was an a cappella fanatic, and remembered seeing Eric Bradley perform with Sixth Wave. He recommended the producers track the kid down. Which they did. And suddenly Eric Bradley was on a plane to Chicago. He worked 12 days. He pocketed some nice cash. And he flew home.
In the summer of 2006, lo and behold, an invitation arrives in the mail. Eric Bradley is the only Tone Ranger (save for Michael Higgins) living out in Los Angeles and so he’s been invited to the big Hollywood premiere. He and his wife get dressed up. They do the red carpet. Even better, Jennifer Aniston remembers him! Ok, not by name. But she said, 'Hey, Tone Ranger!' and was gracious enough to meet Bradley’s wife.
Bradley and his wife take their seats in the theater and the lights go down. The crowd is loving the Tone Rangers, by the way. And then the Tone Rangers disappear. What happened? They were, in short, a casualty of the Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn coupling.
In the original script, Vince and Jen didn’t wind up together. Instead, they ran into each other at a huge carnival, each with their new significant other. The big joke was that Vince’s new girlfriend looked a lot like Jen, and her new boyfriend had the shlubby appeal of Vince Vaughn. The two smile, knowingly. And the camera pans to the carnival stage where the Tone Rangers sing “The Rainbow Connection” complete with choreography and sequins. It was a massive production. They’d shot the scene in Chicago’s Grant Park with 1,000 extras.
But, apparently, that ending didn’t test well. The pubic wanted Vaughniston! Which is what they got, along with a brand new, a cappella-free ending for The Break-Up. The big Tone Rangers finale wound up on the cutting room floor. Most of it, anyway. The audio from “The Rainbow Connection” still plays over the closing credits.
Eric Bradley was able to laugh about it. This was, afterall, just one of his media hits. He’d made an appearance on an episode of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, as a member of the a cappella group, The Shagarats. (The episode is called “The Slutty Pumpkin” and the Shagarats entertain at a rooftop Halloween party, singing “Is She Really Going Out With Him.”)
If you want to see the original ending of The Break-Up, he says, check out the DVD. There's also a Tone Rangers making-of featurette. Now, any chance of a Tone Rangers reunion?
“Maybe they’ll have a sequel,” Eric says. “The Make-Up.” Stranger things have happened.
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